Self-Motivation and Journalism Students

With the start of the new semester at UNC today, it’s a good time for a “What did you do over vacation?” post. For journalism students who have a sincere interest in online, they probably spent the break teaching themselves new technology.

Exhibit A: Greg Linch, editor for online and multimedia at The Miami Hurricane.

Before the break, Linch pondered on his blog what he should teach himself during break. He said most of the responses suggested databases, computer assisted reporting and search engine optimization. Keep in mind that he says he already knows:

  • Writing and reporting
  • Media law and ethics
  • AP style
  • Video content gathering and editing
  • Audio content gathering editing
  • Photography and photo editing
  • Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign
  • Blogging
  • Social media
  • Content and community management
  • SEO (more than basic)
  • Flash
  • JavaScript (fairly basic)
  • Spanish

This is the kind of initiative and self-motivation needed by any journalism students who wants to be more than average.

As Andrew Dunn here at UNC laments, there simply isn’t enough time to learn everything in the confines of a student’s pursuit for course credits. As much as a reporting internship is mandatory for journalism students, so is the interest and ability to teach yourself technology.

Why? First, because this is how professional journalists teach themselves new technology. They don’t get time to sit in a classroom three hours a week so they can figure out how to write “Hello, World!” in PHP. They do their normal reporting jobs, then go home and start teaching themselves the skills they need to further their careers.

Second, because you will get crap assignments in the working world if you don’t show some initiative. As a veteran journalist at The Washington Post once explained to me, he knew that if he generated enough of own story ideas that his editor wouldn’t come looking for him when she needed someone to cover the Miss Pumpkin contest. A lot of my students look at the news sites today and think they’re pretty bad. OK… but if you don’t have the initiative and skills to fix them, they ain’t going to get any better.

The students who will get the jobs are the ones who are out there building things on their own. The tools are often free or cheap, and so are the tutorials. It’s not enough for a student just to take an online or multimedia class. They have to take the skills and concepts they learn there and then go build something — anything.

So, kick of the new semester by leaving time on your schedule for learning some new media skill. Don’t want to do it alone? Start a student club with other fellow travelers. Get a computer science student to join you as a guide. Here’s a guide to the free tutorials out there if you just make the time.

There are no doubt countless other free resources out there for journalists. If you have one you’d like to share, please post in the comments below.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

4 thoughts on “Self-Motivation and Journalism Students”

  1. Thanks for this… as if my conscience wasn’t hounding me enough. I appreciate these links.

  2. Greg’s absolutely right about being a great resource, especially for more complicated software and programming languages. I can usually follow’s instructions much more easily than I can follow a straight how-to book on the same topic.

    Another resource I’ve found useful for learning is Mindy McAdams’ slew of guides, tipsheets, links, etc.

    And, if you want to switch things up, I also recommend Religion Newswriters’ webinars on Islam. Most journalists I know say they could don’t understand the religion, and the organization’s webinars are short and to-the-point.

    For more info on which courses I found to be especially useful, check out

Comments are closed.